Ninja Vanish

To borrow a cliché, if Snake Eyes starred a wet blanket, then maybe this G.I. Joe origin story might carry a personality. As it is, Henry Golding is impossibly dull in the lead role, stuck with strictly cliché, bantering hero dialog in an outmoded, genre-mixing action movie.

Using stock kung-fu cinema as its base, Snake Eyes ventures into flamboyant wuxia-derived sword clashes, comic book nonsense, and at its worst, a baseless mystical giant snake creature-feature. Whatever Snake Eyes does well (and some action scenes produce capable martial arts choreography), there’s another element clumsily suffocating those successes.

Snake Eyes is an eye-rolling attempt to culturally legitimize a brand

At primary issue is Snake Eyes’ derivative Japanese lore, that looks and feels less like an earnest attempt to imbue viewers with authentic Asian flourishes than it does a hodgepodge of mainstream stereotypes. Were Snake Eyes part of the ‘80s ninja action boom, maybe there’s space to forgive. Now, it’s shameless, on the hunt for that nostalgic boon to boost Hasbro’s brand, and appealing to a generation raised on G.I. Joe.

A fable of yakuza and internally warring ninja clans pulls from the unending cliches developed by exploitation schlock. Snake Eyes looks the part too – admittedly glossy, if cheap enough to pass as a multi-part Netflix mini-series. Oddly, it’s better to split into two parts as pacing lags and uneven action fails to hold interest.

Snake Eyes can (hopefully) join the litany of franchise movie attempts that went nowhere, notably Universal’s determined try to build their classic monsters into a thing, only to flatline each time. While the previous two G.I. Joe flicks wearily made for mindless screen idiocy, Snake Eyes is an eye-rolling attempt to culturally legitimize a brand built on an obvious pro-American, propagandist brand. Focusing here, on a Japanese character, comes across more as pandering to a smarter, more socially aware demographic. That’s failing everyone potentially interested.

On a final note, the ninja clan sports the name Arashikage, which translates to Storm Shadow. How subtle, given Snake Eyes’ nemesis. It’s an effort to hide a hint for those who catch the reference, but if so, it comes off like the desperate reach it is.

Video

Bringing a rather rotten, acid-like color palette, the Dolby Vision pass can’t help alleviate that creative choice. Vivid yellows, oversaturated reds, messy greens – Snake Eyes goes overboard, but to some credit, it’s high on vibrancy, if not the usual primaries. There’s almost a surreal glow to each frame, which is helped by the deep color.

Also, it’s dynamic, heavy on the contrast and pumping up the brightness. That drives energy into the frame consistently, matched by full, dense black levels. Shadows show spectacular consistency. If Dolby Vision makes one significant impact compared to Blu-ray, it’s here. That’s not abnormal for the format, but rather Snake Eyes is an especially potent case.

Upscaled from a digital 2K finish, that process brings with it a few issues. Ringing becomes visible on high contrast edges, if infrequently. Fidelity overall stays firm, if roughened by the lower resolution source. Textural clarity in close defines facial detail, but flattens when at distance. Establishing shots and exteriors look rudimentary, saved more by contrast than added sharpness.

Audio

At moments, Snake Eyes’ Atmos mix accurately follows the hectic action. Swordplay bounces between the available speakers. Vehicles pan, and where possible, overheads follow along to make themselves noticed. For a major studio action movie though, it’s rudimentary, almost as if on a budget.

Worse, low-end effects suffer from pinched range, similar to Disney’s failures on the format. The visual scale isn’t represented in the subwoofer at all, even when at its deepest. Overall volume sits too low as well, also like those Disney discs.

Extras

On the UHD, bonuses open with a dull featurette detailing Snake Eye’s sword over a few minutes. Five deleted scenes last two minutes. Henry Golding discusses his role in the next bit, an extended promo running near 10-minutes. The other players in the cast are given six minutes total to cover them. In the final bit, the ninja clan comes into focus for seven minutes.

Snake Eyes
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras
2

Movie

Rife in cliches and cross-generational pandering, Snake Eyes quickly becomes directionless.

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The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 61 full resolution uncompressed 4K screen shots grabbed directly from the UHD: